Roar for Tigers

Forest staff put on poll duty despite EC directive

Forest staff put on poll duty despite EC directive

Apr 1, 2014

Pilibhit: Virtually ignoring the Election Commission’s directives, the Pilibhit district administration has ordered more than 100 forest department employees to report for poll duty. The move comes at a time when the forest department is reeling under increasing incidents of tiger attacks on humans in nearby villages, with five such incidents reported within a month. Besides this, poaching of wild animals, illegal felling of trees and forest fires are other problems which the forest staff has to grapple with on a routine basis, officials said. “The EC order issued to all state chief secretaries and chief election officer explicitly mentions that the above staff are exempted from election duty to protect India’s diminishing wildlife values and it should be strictly followed,” Pilibhit divisional forest officer Rajeev Mishra said. More than 114 employees, including class one officers, have been assigned election duty, which means that officers whose primary duty is to patrol forest areas and monitor movement of the wild cat are instead manning entry check posts in the area, Mishra said. Pilibhit DM Om Narayan Singh, however, defended the decision, saying there was an acute shortage of staff to conduct the elections in an orderly manner. “I am facing acute shortage of staff to conduct elections in a peaceful and orderly manner which is the reason why forest department staff has also been pressed into duty.

No doubt, EC’s directives exempt them from such duty but under extraordinary circumstances, we can assign election duty to staff of any government department. Even Shikha Mitras, who are never assigned election duty, have been asked to render their services in the wake of urgent need of additional staff,” the DM, who is also the district election officer, said. More than five persons were killed or injured in the tiger attacks between February 18 and March 19 in Marauri, Banskhera, Dhakka Chat, Mathna Japti and Basantapur village areas of the district, which has forest ranges like Mala, Mahaut, Barai, Deoria and Haripur under its jurisdiction.

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